Professor Roberts on Office Hours
When his students visit him during office hours, Assistant Professor of English Frank Leon Roberts gives them books to read and keep. [Related reading: “Keep This Book for the Rest of Your Life”]
“I approach my office hours the way that I approach my grandmother’s kitchen table: as a gathering place where all are welcomed and where all who come are affirmed and valued. Office hours are a unique part of the liberal arts experience insofar as they often allow for more casual sites of knowledge exchange between student and teacher.
“In my pedagogy, I am influenced by education studies scholar Joseph Nelson’s discussion about the importance of building what he calls ‘relational gestures’ with students: those small side conversations/interactions that remind students that professors have more in common with them than simply an interest in books.
“An example: I’ll sometimes begin my classes (or my office hours) by mentioning what songs I’m listening to on Beyoncé’s latest album (I’m currently addicted to ‘Pure Honey’ and ‘Cuff It’) or debating with them over who should hold the rightful title for ‘best hip-hop artist ever’ (I’m inclined to say Biggie Smalls; they’re inclined to say Kendrick Lamar).
“These small, seemingly superficial gestures actually hold great pedagogical value: they help ease the rigid boundary between student and teacher and help remind students that their professors are everyday people with quirky interests just like them.”
Frank Leon Roberts, assistant professor of English, meets with Jocelyn Nichols ’25, a student in his “Foundations of African American Literature” course.